25 March 2017

A Discussion With. Nix Damn P: Mastering a Craft, Spinning a Legacy

Let’s face it, few job titles excite people like being a DJ does. Upon mention to anyone, there’s a good chance requisite questions from music genres to gig locations will be coming your way. From friends sharing playlists of exquisitely curated songs online, to old high school batch mates spinning in-house at some new bar you just discovered, these days, it seems like everybody’s a DJ.

Nix Pernia knows that. He’s been doing this a long while now. From regular performances around the local bar scene, to playing the biggest parties across the country, Nix acknowledges that it’s way easier for anyone now to make a living by hopping on the DJ bandwagon. However, he’s also quick to point out that just like with any craft – enjoying longevity is a product of hard work and dedication. 
We took some time with Nix, known to many as Nix Damn P to talk about his roots, what’s next, what’s on his feet, and the importance of trusting your DJ.

Words by Mykee Alvero & Photography by Zaldine Jae Alvaro

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Nix Pernia aka Nix Damn P. I’m a sucker for good music, and I'm also passionate 
about food, except for pineapples on pizza. And I provide good vibrations through DJ-ing.

How did you first discover DJ-ing?

I discovered it through a friend from college. When I saw his DJ set collecting dust 
inside his room, I asked what it was for and if I could borrow it. Looking back, it’s not like he had a choice, but good thing he said yes. 

When did you know it was something you wanted to do?

I didn’t have plans on being a DJ before. But when I lived with my
 brother in the US and won a DJ competition in California, it was a pretty big deal to me. I realized DJ's are artists too. There's a whole "industry" for it, and that the craft is 
way deeper than I thought.

How were your first gigs like? What was the most memorable gig that
 formed your strong perspective of DJ-ing?

One big question mark. It was a time in my life where I had a lot of questions in my head, I was really confused. Since I didn’t know how to spin different kinds of music, I was only playing hard house or trance at small parties for free. I went from gigs with no talent fees to P500-1000 a night. I used to think it was all about the music, but it turns out there’s a business and culture side to DJ-ing too.

Does your own personal taste in music influence what you play live? 
How do you balance it with what the audience like?

Yeah, it’s our identity as music influencers. I balance it by keeping 
my ears wide open to all genres, from underground stuff to mainstream joints. When it comes to playing live, people either hear good or bad music. No in-betweens. 

When it comes to approaching a performance, do you come prepared or is 
it something you just vibe out?

Whether it’s an event or a party, I treat a performance like I’m telling a short story. Different environments have different crowds, but having the right music really gets vibes going. But still, hours in the studio reflect on your performance. Practice in silence, perform with confidence.

Are there any assumptions people have towards being a DJ or any 
challenges that come with it that you’ve had to overcome?

Where do I start? Everyone is a DJ now [laughs]! Kidding aside, it’s become so popular that it created a lot of new industries to make a living from – magazines, events, blogs to
 movies. So it actually helps a lot. People now know we’re not robots [laughs]. But at the same time, it’s on us to stay true to the craft, be consistent to the craft, and innovate. 

Are there any other DJs or people you look up to, people you’d
 consider masters of their craft?

Oh yeah! DJ Craze is up there on the top of the list with DJ Premier, DJ Krush, Jazzy Jeff, DJ AM, A-Trak, Gaslamp Killer, RL Grime, Deadmau5 and more. They’re up there cause they innovate while staying true to their craft.

What inspires you to keep working on yours?

Our people, education, and the road of learning that never ends. It drives
 me to take this craft to new levels. It excites me to create, and it moves me toward directions that were goals I once dreamed of.

Speaking of masters, you’ve got the “Master” Air Max 1s on. They take 
cues from the greatest Air Max 1s of all time and spin them into an
entirely new shoe. Do you think it’s a good representation of what a
 DJ does? 

Yeah! It’s crazy when you think about it, because DJs aren’t just about the music now. There’s a Swiss Army Knife vibe to being a DJ like how people say to use music as a tool. We can connect it to graphic design, we score films, and we can even create events.

In terms of the Air Max “Masters”, I guess it’s the blend of materials, cultures and influences coming together that relates to how our industry is. There’s chaos and balance, at the same time.

What’s next for NixDamnP?

Still climbing this mountain called music [laughs]! It never ends 
man! I’m in a good place now cause of new skills. It’s
 exciting to create your own music. It’s hard but it’s rewarding.

What words of advice would you give for anyone who wants to be a DJ as well?

Know your roots. Be real. Respect the craft. And oh practice and
 practice and practice and practice and practice…and practice! TRUST YOUR DJ!


19 March 2017

Nude Illustrations from The Lifedrawing Setup by Tom Bucag

The two-man team of WHOAREMARO is at it again with The Lifedrawing Setup, a nude figure drawing event that gathers different people in a night of music, drinks, and well, nudity. Having just concluded their 6th installment, Mikee and Rocky continue to give artists (whether amateur or professional) a venue to practice their skill and hone their craft. But it's not just a place for artists to commune, it's also welcoming to those who simply wants to get exposed, The Lifedrawing Setup is as open as it gets.

WHOAREMARO invited us to one of the first sessions a while back, and we found it interesting and intriguing – so much that we wanted to have someone experience it, too. For this, we wanted to send someone who is already into drawing and illustration but thought of nude figures as unfamiliar territory, and so Tom Bucag came to mind. Tom is known for the illustrations he did for Preview last year, where he made portraits of their Best Dressed in a way only he can. We reached out to him, asked if he wanted to experience such a thing. He was surprised by the invitation but was equally curious, and so he went.

Artworks by Tom Bucag

Can you give a brief background about yourself?
It all started with a spontaneous slap of curiosity. I was a college student back then – an undergraduate trying to earn a degree majoring in Biology, when it hit me with the thought of "drawing" but without the intent of pursuing it. Bought the cheapest sketching pad, grabbed a random number coded graphite pencil and charcoal. I didn't have the slightest inkling as to how it works! So I just went on with it and drew my first ever portrait with a specific vision of a woman in mind. The result was far from how I wished it to be, but it was a self pat on the back thinking "kaya ko pala!"  (I can do it!) From then, I drew every chance I get.

I have always admired femininity – its fluidity and subtle yet firm expression of a message. My subjects mainly revolve around women with a distinct look of being aloof and nonchalant but proud. Style wise, I like experimenting on different techniques and media thus I can't claim yet a specific style I would consider mine.

What do you hope to achieve being an artist?
One of the artists I look up to, Yohji Yamamoto, once said "I want to achieve anti-fashion through fashion." There's a strange correlation about his views to mine wherein we're eyeing on the same trophy. Pursuing art without the formal education can be a real pain (aside from being very time consuming). That's why it was always a mindset to create art and present it in its truest form and content without the thought of undergoing through the process of how things should be.

What did you expect from The Lifedrawing Setup? How was the experience?
Honestly, I expected the event to be like scenes from films – quiet, well-lit, serious, and intimidating. It was close to being the complete opposite. Like the usual setup as films would portray, the nude model stands in the middle on a platform while the artists circle around. Apart from the setup, music was of great help. It was loud but not numbing, enough to kill the intimidating air that welcomed me as I entered the room. Everyone was serious. One would walk around trying to find the perfect angle despite the surprisingly huge crowd, then settles 'til the sketch is done and the model makes another pose.

As my normal uncalm self, my eyes kept roaming around different sketchpads from one hand to another, observing how other artists do it. The experience was initially very intimidating. I kept flipping pages to start another work. I put my observance to good use, turns out, not giving a whit is key. You just gotta do your own thing because honestly, other artists don't give that much damn about what you make as they're busy creating their own.

Would you want to do it again?
Definitely. Aside from enjoying the used-to-be unfamiliar The Lifedrawing Setup, I've met a great deal of people.

Why should artists experience The Lifedrawing Setup?
Artists should experience The Lifedrawing Setup because it will test your skills on the spot. There's no time for procrastinating. Everything is fast paced, thus your mind gets to come up with an idea in an instant, which is very crucial.

Lastly, could you briefly discuss to us your illustrations.
As mentioned earlier, I started with much intimidation from fellow artists, and it's clearly reflected on my first drawings. The style was very uncertain with much confusion on how I want the final output would look like. But towards the latter drawings, I went on with my mindset of just going with it with instantaneous ideas. It can be tricky at first, but one learns in the process.

13 March 2017

Paola Mauricio's "Consent To This" is Your Latest Earworm

There's something refreshing about Paola Mauricio's music. At once rhythmic and lively, it borders along  electronic music and R & B; occasionally dipping into smooth verse before amping in a head-bobbing hook.

"Consent To This" is testament to such prowess. With sensual synths and bass lines, it's a tune that takes a fresh approach to timeworn themes of love and longing. Instead of typical, one-sided takes on the topic, the single - produced by Justin de Guzman of Deeper Manila and penned by Mauricio - delves into the importance of reciprocity; punctuated by an addictive drumline and Mauricio's sweet vocals.

Check the links below for more of Paola Mauricio's music:
SoundCloud: @paolamau

11 March 2017

Nike Combines Different Styles for its 30th Year Anniversary Edition, the Air Max 1 Master

In 1987 the Air Max was born. It was the very first silhouette where the visible Nike Air was showcased, which was designed by renowned shoe designer, Tinker Hatfield. Initially created to be used for training and sports that the iconic Nike Air commercial in 1987 clearly expresses. Though it found success in that direction early on, the Air Max 1 eventually became a household pair as a lifestyle shoe due to its design and heritage.

This is the famous Nike TV commercial that ran in 1987 that jumpstarted the Nike Air technology and the Nike Air Max specifically. The commercial adopted the tracks of The Beatles 'Revolution' to accompany the visuals that depict sports, training, celebrity athletes, amateur players, and more. It exhibited the philosophy of equality through sports, which Nike advocates. View the video above for the iconic commercial that kicked off the revolution. You can know more about the video and  The Daily Street . You can also see the original print ad of the Nike Air System below.

Fast forward to today, the Air Max 1 is celebrating its 30th anniversary by releasing the Air Max 1 Master. This monumental milestone for the silhouette and the line made Nike create a design that commemorates the most coveted styles in the Air Max lineage. We compiled the inspirations below so you can do a little search of where they pulled the materials from design to the Air Max 1 Master.

09 March 2017

Shop Talk over Coffee with Baristas from Legaspi Village Cafés

Along the bustling streets of Legaspi Village in Makati are caffeine gems conspicuously tucked in between office buildings, perfectly juxtaposed against the busy vibe and fast pace of life in the city’s business district. The recent resurgence and newfound appreciation for craft coffee paved the way for these third wave cafes to rise. Most notable of those are Local Edition Coffee and Tea, Yardstick Coffee, and Toby’s Estate. While they are well-known for their undeniable quality coffee, they are remembered and loved for the sense of community they foster among their customers. This is what sets them apart from mainstream coffee shops. In here, the baristas engage you in genuine and insightful conversations.

More often than not, it is the baristas who ask questions to their customers – how their days are or how they’re feeling – and take the extra step to get to know them. But what if we do it the other way around? So on one Sunday afternoon, we decided that it was fitting that we get to know them as well. After all, everyone has stories worth sharing. Here are theirs.

Photos by Zaldine Alvaro

Imari June Emia, Senior Barista
Why did you become a barista?
Actually, I didn't really start out as a barista. I was initially a cook, and that's how I applied in Local Edition. But once I got in, I learned to be an all-around employee, because here we all take turns in doing different tasks – we get to serve the customers, man the register, and make coffee. So because of that, I eventually learned how to make coffee. Now, I'm really happy to be a barista.

What's your most interesting experience in the café so far?
There are a lot, but for me it's the day-to-day task of being friendly to the customers because it's very important especially since we're a neighborhood café. The best thing is that all of our regular customers have become our friends. And within the store itself, every few months we change the art installations which means new artists to work with. These artists become our new friends as well.

A particular instance would be when I formed a good relationship with a group of people from Lazada who have been our regular customers for the longest time. We also meet up and hang out with each other even outside of Local Edition.

What do you think is key to make customers keep coming back?
It's the attitude of the baristas. It's very important that you are attentive to their needs and mood, and being friendly – that's what the customers really notice. If they like the coffee but don't like the attitude of the barista, I don't think they will come back to the café.

What do you want to achieve as a barista and what makes this job fulfilling?
The coffee shop industry is already booming, and it has really grown, and it’s nice that people begin to appreciate you even more. For example, if you are a barista people already know that you are knowledgeable and skilled in a lot of things related to coffee. To be honest, because of this we feel pressured to practice our skills even more because nowadays the competition in this industry can get really tight. But once we do get to learn and apply what we learned in the store, that’s when it gets really fulfilling.

As for my goals as a barista, I really would like to someday be able to learn how to mix coffee and cocktails, or make something different and experimental with coffee.

What's your recommendation from the Local Edition menu?
Two of our best-sellers which are Azucarado, which uses sweetened milk as the whipped cream, and Tablocha which uses Tablea chocolate instead of the regular chocolate mixed together with coffee.

Aldrin Lumaban, Senior Barista

Why did you become a barista?
It’s actually an interesting story. I started out when I was in second year college. My cousin asked me to join the Barista Guild of the Philippines. Back then, I had zero knowledge about coffee. In fact, I didn’t want to learn about coffee because I was a culinary student, so I wanted to be a cook. But when I started learning about coffee, I fell in love with it. So come third year college, I pursued being a barista while studying, and it went on from there. Now I’m working here for two years already.

What's your most favorite part about being one?
I really love serving coffee to the customers and talking to them because you can discuss the tastes, sources, and variety of coffee. The most special thing about it is you can connect to the guests and tell them why their coffee tastes a certain way. You also get to understand the different connections – from the farmers of the beans to the roasters down to the customers. That’s basically my favorite part about being a barista.

What's your most interesting experience in the café so far?
I just noticed something interesting about people’s orders recently. Back then, almost everyone who walked in here ordered iced mocha, but now majority of them order latte, espresso, pour-overs. So if you compare it two or three years ago, the orders then had a lot of syrup in it, but now it’s more coffee-based already. And I think that’s a good thing.

What do you think is key to make customers keep coming back?
Good service, consistent product, and customer interaction. I think those three are the key things for a customer because we’ve had a lot who kept coming back because of the way we serve and interact with them. If we have time to spare, we really try our best to talk to them.

What do you want to achieve as a barista?
I want to someday have my own coffee shop – to be in the wave when people are becoming aware and appreciative of good coffee. I envision a rustic coffee shop, similar to Cartel, with minimal food and just really focused on coffee. I want it to be more of a happy place than a work place. If someone wants to explore more about coffee, then he or she can go to my café.

What's your recommendation from the Yardstick menu?
Be Good, our Christmas blend, available only until March.

Jayson Montoya, Senior Barista

Why did you become a barista?
I trained for free in TESDA initially just for fun, and it went from there. I enjoyed making coffee, and my passion for it developed over time.

What’s your most and least favorite parts about being a barista?
My favorite part is customer relations. The day-to-day interactions with our guests feel so natural. We even joke around with our regular customers, and they are just as friendly as well. As for my least favorite part about being a barista, it would have to be the paperwork (laughs).

What do you think is key to make customers keep coming back?
Number one key to make them come back is of course, the coffee. Another is how we treat the customers. Basically, it comes down to quality product and customer satisfaction.

What makes this job fulfilling?
The fact that I am working and at the same time doing something that I love is really something else. Being here doesn’t feel like work at all because I enjoy what I do.

What's your recommendation from the Toby's Estate menu?
Our Flat White and something off the menu called, Gibraltar.

More than the coffee, the playlist, or the store’s aesthetic, it is the baristas who pour their heart and energies out into their craft that make our café trips worthwhile. Maybe the next time they ask for our story, we can, in return, ask them about theirs too.

04 March 2017

What makes Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival different?

"The entire weekend is just a treat. You’d always want to go back to the amphitheater to immerse yourself back in the music again and again."

I check on my email inbox religiously and this is what catches my eye. It was a response from Mr. King Puentespina himself, or Crwn rather, the moniker he publicly manifests. On March 10, the magic is bound to be alive yet again, mysteriously surrounding the mountains of Malasimbo in the glorious, oft overlooked Puerto Galera landscape. And Crwn, known for his take on soul and old school jazz laced with modern beats, is one of the lucky ones to have graced and headlined a locally inspired world stage with nature as its backdrop, away from the awry city buzz. He’s been a regular since 2015 and this year, he’s back and he couldn’t be happier, “First time I played in Malasimbo was just too surreal. The show literally drowned me in music and eventually I learned how to swim in it there. The musicians playing there were just unbelievably talented. It was an overwhelming experience for me to be on the stage, let alone do an entire set.”

All photos are from @malasimbofestival and @shutterpanda

It’s hard to believe that the Malasimbo Music Festival, no longer spoken of in hushed tones but in loud booming notes of anticipation, started out on a whim. Miro Grgic was born and raised in Croatia and lived in Australia for half of his life before moving to the Philippines and eventually making it his home in 2010. In his adventures and misadventures as a recurring tourist in our country, he had several encounters with local artists who were craving for more, who wanted a platform to be heard. Then, the feedback he was hearing firsthand wasn’t just mere coincidence anymore. 

A strong force drew him here and it was clear that the universe wanted him to do something bigger than himself in a foreign land. “It just seemed like a festival was the right catalyst, so I ended up spearheading this movement that would help encourage others commit to their craft,” he says of the endeavor. Miro Grgic was not pining for a Philippine version of Coachella, no, not even close. He’s quick to point out that the movement he pioneered was a means towards that end, a meaningful one at that. It’s a place where the local scene is invested on, where local artists who have yet to make it big are made known and developed.

There was a time around 2009 that music festivals started sprouting out like daisies all over Manila. Before this even took place, Miro saw the potential right off the bat. Music festivals can indeed take off in the Philippines. He was right all along. But lo and behold, he chose to go against the flow. Given the rising trend, the ideal route would be to have one in a large metropolis in the Metro (say Pasay, Makati or QC, cities where the musically inclined youth get their fill). If not the city, then definitely a well-known beach where the weekend warriors and the party animals come to play. You’ve got the likes of La Union or Boracay for that. But Puerto Galera? And not on the beach but on the mountains? What gives? Apparently, there’s a method to the madness. “(Personally) That’s because my wife grew up there. And it was also a good place because it was lacking a bit of attention from the tourism…We really went against the rules and against the grain and I think it’s really something. That’s how it became what it is today.” Indeed, making a huge endeavor happen in the most unexpected place reaps rewards.

Since then, Malasimbo has curated a wide set of artists, left and right—of different genres and diverse personalities. They fly independent musicians from abroad too but the spotlight has always been transfixed on the local musicians from different parts of the country. The process of handpicking the acts for the three-day event is rigorous, as Miro suggests, but surprisingly, it’s also as simple as getting in touch with what’s happening online. The process of curation starts with visits to Youtube and Soundcloud. He also makes it a habit to spin some records on his basement. He shortlists his favorites and then tries his luck at finding these people personally, reaching out to them to give them an opportunity of a lifetime.

Enter Mito Fabie, a.k.a. Curtismith, who came into the Malasimbo picture three years ago and has been living it up ever since. It’s a match made in heaven actually. He’s a firm believer of the musical advocacy the festival presents. A typical weekend at Malasimbo is the epitome of chill. It’s more than just a nature trip, it’s more than just the music.  The homegrown rapper known for his slick raw verses puts his personal experience to words, “You have to experience it to understand…I like to play things by ear when I’m there because there’s a lot to do depending on who you’re with.” Crwn agrees with this sentiment, at a loss for words by the weekend’s pure bliss, “It’s the island. You just want it to swallow you alive, if that makes any sense”.

What is it exactly that keeps people coming back for more? For Jorge (more known as SimilarObjects), another returning performer for this edition, five things immediately come to mind: nature, art, music, good people, and magic. On a separate correspondence with the multi-genre beat-maker, he shares his thoughts on the yearly fest that has consistently drawn a devoted crowd since year one. "No hype, (it's) just pure vibes all around...it allows people to get away from all the dense vibrations of the city to be able to enjoy the healing energies of nature and music and the context of an open celebration," he says.

Now on it’s 7th run, the Malasimbo Music Festival promises to be that much needed escape for the soul. It promises to stay the same old festival we fell in love with back in 2010, but also promises new surprises. For instance, the two biggest additions for this year will be the drum shows and the silent disco. It will also be featuring June Marieezy’s last show as June Marieezy before she reinvents herself into another musical persona.

It’s no question that Malasimbo has been keen on pushing the envelope and taking Original Pinoy Music to a higher place. While they’re at it, they even showcase the lesser heard voices and talents the rest of the world has to offer. Curtismith elaborates further, “They’ve contributed by elevating the culture. Everyone behind Malasimbo is coming from a genuine place”.

Perched atop Mt. Malasimbo while the sea-scented wind blows and the birds chip chirp in unison and the stars twinkle even brighter in the night sky, the magic rests in the music. The magic happens when all these artists from different backgrounds and genres merge to just play and celebrate the beauty of harmonies and beats and chords and notes.

Just the thought of basking in that revelry is enough to put a smile on my face.

For more info, visit the Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival page.
All photos are from @malasimbofestival and @shutterpanda

24 February 2017

Metro Manila through the Eyes of Local Artists in the No Chaos, No Party Artbook

No Chaos, No Party is not your ordinary artbook.

It should be obvious at first glance – the reflective, kitschy foil cover; the brightly-colored bookmarks; the obvious energy that inundates each page. It’s the kind of item that sends any collector to their knees, much akin to an ultra-rare trading card or specie of butterfly.

No, this artbook is in a league of its own. One might even be tempted to call it otherwise – you won’t find that clear-cut, academic look that permeates a majority of them. Nor will you find that minimalistic, Kinfolkian way of presenting images. No, what you’ll find inside is an explosion of creativity, a pastiche of aesthetic that differs from chapter to chapter, from artist to artist. The inside front and back spreads pounce on you with pop-ups of the title. No two sections are ever the same, and you get this nifty map insert detailing the places and prizes of the local art scene, beckoning you to take a look at it.

This is not coincidental. The artbook, after all, takes Metro Manila as its primary subject matter – weaving in narratives and perspectives from 28 artists who have taken the area as their muse. It’s an interesting exercise in blending the city and its dwellers, the art and the artist; pushing the boundaries of medium in order to get its message across. This is the nature of art: to be true to experience, no matter what that experience might be.

Behind all of this is the dynamic duo of Valeria Cavestany and Eva McGovern-Basa, who are no strangers to the art world. Both, however, have taken to it on different fields: Valeria, the book’s mastermind and Editor-in-Chief, is herself both an artist and a patron of the arts. Taking to the brush as her medium, she has been exhibiting work since the 90’s alongside other artists and artist collectives, such as the Bastards of Misrepresentation. On the other hand, Eva – the book’s Managing Editor – has worked with museums and galleries both here and abroad, notably the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, UK. Dealing mostly with knowledge production and content creation, she takes a more practical approach to art, evident in her curatorial and writing ventures.

Valeria Cavestany (Photo by Wawi Navarroza) and Eva McGovern-Basa

We were quite fortunate to chat a bit more about the book with Eva. Valeria, unfortunately, was out of the country at the time.

Can you give us an introduction to the concept of No Chaos, No Party?

The design was a very important aspect of the book. We really looked very carefully for the designers, and we got some advice from people at GRID Magazine, people who would really understand what we were trying to do.

Eventually, [we] decided to work with Rex Advincula and Joyce Tai from Inksurge, because their practice, attitudes, and relationships to design, Metro Manila, risk-taking, and experimentation felt very complementary to what we were trying to do. We really allowed them the freedom to respond to each of the artists’ [needs].

Apart from re-selecting certain images and removing a few elements, the design is pretty much [the designer’s] vision, [which were] based upon lots of conversations with me. [The designers] are really equal collaborators in this book.

The book came about through the vision of Valeria Cavestany, who is an artist, patron, and very, very passionate about promoting Philippine art. She and I have worked together for a number of years for various things, and she felt that it was really important to produce an exciting, dynamic book on contemporary Filipino art [which] also [tried] to push the book format, and have a certain “wow” factor.

I think that is the beauty of working with an artist as your patron, because she’s so visual, so creative. She really wanted the book to have that visual experience. Oftentimes, you look more at the images rather than the writing – the writing is something you could return to when you have the time, but the images are something you immediately respond to. So for [Valeria], it was very important to be visual, to be playful, so that’s why we got our very colorful bookmarks [and other creative executions].

We have this photo essay of alternative [art] spaces in the 90's, and it’s kind of supposed to feel like a yearbook collage, or like a scrapbook. We worked with Ringo Bunoan [for this], who is an artist and an archivist of the Roberto Chabet archive.

[We also] decided that even though it’s impossible to map the city, if the book is about Metro Manila and the art world, we needed to create some type of map. So the designers came up with this sort of infographic –  a mapping of the city which shows where the volume of galleries are, and we’ve done a type of incomplete list of spaces, galleries, museums, and art prizes, just to give a very loose overview of the city.

Are you guys also planning to produce other books after this?

I suppose this book is an experiment really, to see how people respond to it, whether there’s need for this type of book – and subsequently, more books – or whether people are not [responsive]. So at the end of the day, we need to weigh out the costs involved, and we need to recuperate some of those in order to be able to do more projects.

You mentioned previously that you had to consult with a lot of artists and designers for the book. How was it like behind the scenes? How did you guys bring it together?

Basically, we started out with this very excited and enthusiastic dream of doing a book on Metro Manila, and the artists of Metro Manila. We had a series of development meetings with myself, Valeria, and our project manager to figure out the content of the book. We knew we wanted to do artist interviews, so we came up with a series of questions around a series of topics, including personal history, the history of their practice, themes involved in their practice, interesting anecdotes from their career, their relationship to their mentors [and] to other artists, if they were involved in any type of alternative space, and their hopes and dreams for the city and the art world.

And we wanted to figure out [what else] would be in the book – but in the end, it became clear that the artists would form the bulk of the book. Four of the artists [involved in the project] have their own spaces associated with them, so we felt that it tied in nicely to have a photo essay on a particular period of time [that revolved around artist-run spaces].

After lots of different ideas, [we] decided them to [primarily] be interviews. We made a wish list of all the artists that we thought would fit the brief of the book: that all the artists had to be inspired indirectly or directly by the city of Metro Manila. Whether through a certain playful, anarchic, chaotic style; a very observational style where they would just photograph or paint the urban environment; or whether they had a type of personal attitude that reflected people who live in Manila. For example, the reason we put [Romeo Lee] on the cover was that we wanted to put an artist on the cover… and he really reflects the spirit of the book – free-spirited, playful, energetic, punkish – being the godfather of the punk scene.

So once we decided on who the artists were [and once] the artists agreed to participate, we scheduled all interviews. The interviews themselves took about eight months, because we went to all the studios, sat down with them, and recorded a conversation that was about two, three, to four hours long. That audio was [then] transcribed, and I, along with my project manager, edited the text from like 14,000 words to 1,500. So all the interviews are roughly 700-3,000 words long, depending on how much the artist had to say. (laughs)

And then we collated all the visual materials, which included images of their artwork. MM Yu - our photographer for the project, who is also included  in the book as one of the artists - then had to schedule a photoshoot where she would go to the studio, photograph [the artist] portraits [and] studios. If we had to re-photograph any art, we’d do it then as well. We also asked the artists to submit any supplementary materials – any sketches, or handwritten notes, or any ephemera that would give a more human glimpse into who they are. All this material was given to the designers, and the designers would create the designs for about 2-3 artists every couple of weeks. We went into this design-editing phase of working through the texts, proofreading, copy-editing, as well as polishing up the design, and so forth. Once we had the digital design done – which took quite a long time – we went into our pre-print development phase.

We worked with a local printer, but their operations are in Hong Kong and China. So the local printer was the one who developed with us the construction of the pop-up, we played with different effects for the cover, the material for the bookmark, that type of thing. And once we had the final mockup of the book, we went to print. And I suppose the challenges of something like this is just the sheer scale of the project. I mean, getting 28 artists to submit materials to meet your own deadlines – ‘cause they’re all busy, they’re all doing their own projects, some of them are traveling, some of them got artist residencies, some of them don’t pick up their phones, or emails – you know, they’re very busy. So that was a lot of chasing. (laughs) A lot of chasing!

And then, I suppose the production of the book was a very steep learning curve because – I mean, I’ve done books before, but never with a pop-up, the paper, you know, how the images respond to the paper, the bookmarks, and the map – all of this construction side of the book took a really long time to develop. And, you know, we all have other jobs. (laughs)

Our initial goal was to get the project done in a year. Then, it took about 2 and a half years to do.

Is this because of the production of the book itself?

Well, first of all, it’s coordinating when we can do the interviews, and getting all the content together. It’s just coordinating, you know, the images from the artists – like all of it, these are physical things collected from Romeo. So they were either photographed or scanned by the designer, and if we didn’t have what we needed we had to go back to the artists and get more images. If the images weren’t hi-res enough, we needed to get [a] different more print quality-based images. And we had to supplement questions, you know, if the interview felt a bit imbalanced then we had to do a little follow-up with the artist, and so forth. So all of the logistics of the content generation really took a huge amount of time. Once we had everything, it was just going through the process of execution. But yeah, it was really getting everything done.

All the artists review their pages. Everyone signed off on their page before we went to print. That was really important, because we wanted everyone to feel invested in the project so they had some ownership on how they were represented. Maria Jeona Zoleta, for example (flips to Jeona’s page), wanted a very specific design, and so she actually put [her page] together and gave [it] to us. And for her interview, she wanted it to have a very specific type of language.  So that process also took a lot of time, because it was very important to me that the artists were involved… We obviously had to make certain editorial decisions, but that was important to us.

Valeria’s in the book [too]. Her work is inspired by the kind of chaos, energy, the colors and textures of the city, and she has this interesting Spanish-Filipino heritage as well. You know, that sense of hybridity, it was important to us. A lot of artists we had were quite global, [having] done a lot of residences abroad, [living] in the States for a period of time – David Griggs is Australian, but he had chosen Manila as his home – so, all these different perspectives, inside and outside, local, global, international [were important to us]. [The book is] supposed to be very, very heterogenous. Making every page so unique was one of the challenges.

I’d have to ask though – for this artbook, why did you choose the chaos of Manila? Was this something important to you and Valeria? How did you guys decide to use this as your starting point?

Well, Valeria is loosely part of the Bastards of Misrepresentation – I don’t know if you’re familiar with them – it’s a loose collective of artists… the Bastards is all about [the] Manila vibe, and they have done numerous exhibitions both here and abroad, trying to share all [the] kitschy, crazy, chaotic, weird, and wonderful elements to Metro Manila that they extracted in their practices.

So we were wondering what type of book we would do. Would we do a book on the Bastards, would we do a book on the city? Then we thought it would be nice to kind of broaden out the book by selecting Metro Manila rather than a group of artists, and really take something that everyone says is chaotic, crazy, intense, contradictory, and  turn it on its head; use it [for] something positive and instead share how artists are inspired by it, how they intervene within the city, and what strategies they use not just to survive, but thrive.

Metro Manila [then] becomes some sort of important kind of inspiration rather than something people are just trying to cope with. It’s a rich and fertile ground for creativity – you know, [there are] all [these] exciting things that a lot of people don’t really know about [happening] in the scene! So many people, so many collectives that we could have included – I would love to do a follow-up book, because people think there’s not a lot going on [even if there is]. And there are so many events, so many collectives – so many blogs, so many other books that a lot of people just don’t know about, because the platforms to share these are quite small, or you know, have a small following and so forth.

So this book is really this love letter to the city. It is a tough environment, but somehow people make it work, and they innovate – our designers, our artists, even the bookstore. We’re only working with one bookstore – a local, independent, bookstore, and they only focus on Filipino art, creativity and culture. Even that is an important decision, ‘cause they’re amazing – people don’t necessarily know who they are.

So it’s about getting them out there as well?

Yeah! It’s really a community – in my head, it’s a very romantic community contribution to just allow them to speak for themselves. I mean, I’m not Filipino, this is not my personal context; but I’ve been living here for 4 years, my husband’s Filipino, [and] I’ve been coming in and out [of the country] for 7-8 years. I have this very deep relationship with Metro Manila that’s good and bad at the same time.

So this book is just trying to share that, and say that there’s all this stuff happening, and it’s interesting - [just] take 5 minutes to read about Manuel [Ocampo], or Gerry Tan, or Kaloy Sanchez, or Eisa Jocson. And we try to be very [well-rounded in] all areas, so we got painters, we’ve got installation – we’ve got this fantastic movement-based artist, [Eisa Jocson], [who’s] been doing this really interesting body of work about macho dancing in the Philippines. So what we’re trying to do is to give a voice – you know, [to] people who we think are interesting, exciting, and…

Who can best represent the city?

Yes! Exactly. And not just be completely negative, [or] completely positive, but present multi-layered thoughts and opinions on Metro Manila.

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